- Associated Press - Sunday, October 1, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Christian schools in Michigan are working with an organization focused on boosting cultural competence to improve their diversity and inclusion efforts.

Officials of Grand Rapids Christian Schools and Holland Christian Schools tell MLive the goal of the three-year effort with the Cultural Intelligence Center is to develop roadmaps to improve their organizations, and equip their faculty, staff, students and families to work more effectively.

“We believe every person holds inherent values as a created image-bearer of God, so it behooves us to understand and respect each other better,” said Dan Meester, superintendent of Holland Christian. “We know we’re not experts today, but we are eager to learn and improve.”

The research institute based near East Lansing plans to perform an audit of both systems this fall. Next school year, the schools will team up to train faculty, staff and leaders.

Grand Rapids Christian Schools Superintendent Tom DeJonge said the system of 2,350 students has welcomed an increasingly diverse student body over the last 15 years. He said 26 percent of the school’s population is students of color.

“We are now looking forward to working arm-in-arm in a unique partnership with Holland Christian that will further strengthen our school communities to ensure all are honored in ways that authentically reflect Christ’s love,” DeJonge said.

Sandra Upton is vice president of educational initiatives with the center. She said the schools’ willingness to evaluate their current diversity and inclusion efforts, identify ways to improve, and develop a culturally intelligent strategic plan that is measurable and sustainable is to be commended.

“The fact that they are doing it collaboratively adds even greater value to the process and positions them well to become a leading practice for other school districts around the country and world to follow and learn from,” Upton said.

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